This week I saw another article by a major automotive publication that intentionally or unintentionally has the potential of pushing EV curious shoppers away from EV exploration and possible ownership. The article’s title presented an extreme loss of range in hot weather that even a mildly interested EV intended would take as a reason not to pursue EV any further.
Managing an electric vehicle (EV) in extreme heat and extreme cold is easy to do with education and attention. EVs certainly require special attention to optimize performance, battery life, and overall efficiency over ICE vehicles but just like ICE vehicles, you lose MPG (range) in extreme temperatures as well.
My beef with the article’s premise and title was the fact that in extremely hot ambient conditions, you don’t have to lose a 30% range if you know what you’re doing. At 110 degrees I only lost 4% range in my Tesla Model 3 and in extreme cold, at 27 degrees, I only lost 7% range. My ambient temperature range experience is not a one-off or an exception. In fact, it is one of thousands that you can find in any EV Facebook group, Tesla Owners clubs, or the like.
There is no question that both temperature extremes can have a significant impact on an EV’s range, battery health, and overall operation if you are not familiar with how to operate your EV under extreme conditions. With the hope of stopping the fear-mongering and EV myth train from slamming into a wall, here are some tips for managing your EV in extreme heat and cold conditions from experienced EV owners intended to help new owners or curious shoppers have a fact based perspective.
- Parking Shaded: Whenever possible, like with Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) vehicles, park your EV in the shade to avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. This helps prevent the cabin and battery from overheating, which can negatively affect performance and battery life. Some ways to limit exposure on the Interior are using sunshades or tinted windows to keep the interior of the car cooler, reducing the need for air conditioning and preserving the comfort of the cabin. This is an easy one that one would do the with their ICE vehicle. Make sure to pay attention to why your EV is always comfortable when you get back in on hot days. It is the auto-climate feature and it will make you forget that parking in the shade is always best.
- Preconditioning: Use the car’s pre-conditioning feature while it’s still plugged in before you start driving. This will allow you to cool down the cabin and battery using grid power rather than draining the battery while driving. However, when you are out, be sure an turn off the cabin auto temp feature, or your battery will work to keep the cabin at the last desired driving degrees and drain your battery while you are not in the car. You can always vent your EV to keep the interior from getting too hot with zero range-drain to your battery.
- Avoid Fast Charging in High Temperatures: Extreme heat can cause the battery to heat up during fast charging, which can degrade battery health over time. If possible, try to schedule fast charging sessions during cooler parts of the day. The new EV battery packs have cooling systems that negate this fast charging degradation but it is always a good idea to fast charge only when necessary.
- Monitor Battery Temperature: Some EVs provide information about the battery’s temperature. Keep an eye on this information, and if your EV allows you to limit the maximum charge level, consider setting it to 80% in extreme heat conditions to reduce stress on the battery. To be honest, the 80/20 rule is always in play with EV charging. Its advisable to rarely let your EV drop below 20 percent and only when necessary, charge your EV above 80%. I charge up to 95% and drain to 5% on long road trips only and rarely.
- Preconditioning: Similar to extreme heat, use the pre-conditioning feature to warm up the cabin and battery while the vehicle is still plugged in. This will improve the driving range and efficiency by starting with a warmer battery from your home’s energy source rather than the vehicle. Once on the road with a preconditioned battery, the range will be higher than if you did not precondition before your trip. The reason for this is, without preconditioning, the battery is not only driving the vehicle but it is also using energy to warm itself.
- Reduce Use of Cabin Heating: Cabin heating can consume a significant amount of energy, reducing the driving range. The manufacturers recommendation is to dress warmly and use seat heaters when possible to minimize the need for cabin heating. However, we drive only a few cold months out of the year in South Mississippi but those months are very cold. With the seat warmers and keeping the climate at a reasonable level of 74 degrees, we do not need jackets and the range loss is minimal.
- Garage Your EV: This should be a no brainier but if you have access to a garage, park your EV inside during extreme cold weather. This will help maintain a more moderate temperature, protecting the battery and cabin. if you have a one car garage, the EV has priority.
- Drive Smoothly: In cold weather, the battery’s range can be improved by driving smoothly and avoid aggressive acceleration to conserve energy. Speed and erratic driving behavior is a range killer. A good best practice is to use Auto-Speed and Auto-Steer to keep your driving patterns stable. My wife says both features have made me a much better driver and she is right!
- Maintain Tires: Ensure your tires are properly inflated in cold weather, as tire pressure can drop in low temperatures, affecting range efficiency. This is a easy one for EVs as tire pressure impacts range and driving comfort.
In both extreme heat and cold, being mindful of your driving habits, charging patterns, and temperature management can help you optimize the performance and longevity of your EV and ensure a more enjoyable driving experience. Always consult your EV’s owner’s manual for specific recommendations from the manufacturer on managing extreme temperatures. You can also find resources and EV ownership group by manufacturer s at www.BEVEverything.com and then click “Join our EV Community” HERE.
The bottom line is, extreme ambient temperatures do not have to negatively impact range or the ability to drive your EV as you desire. It only takes mindfulness and intentional behavior, not needed with ICE vehicles, and is something we have to get used to. However, in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the extra attention.
Keep it Electric
The EV Guy
John Ellis, Co-Founder